Eight hours later, Vasily was knocking on the door of apartment 319, waiting impatiently. “So help me God, Pasha, if you’ve ODed…” He supposed he'd be going back to prison for desecrating a corpse.
The door swung open and there was Pasha, sallow skin and sunken eyes, in his undershirt and jeans, toothbrush in his mouth. He grinned like a rabid dog at Vasily. “Good morning, brother.”
“You tied up those loose ends?”
“I did.” Pasha turned somber, obviously not wanting to spend much time on the subject. He walked away, motioning for Vasily to follow. “Come on in and wait while I finish washing up.”
The window was open to the fire escape, and the moth-eaten curtains fluttered in the breeze. Against the wall was a metal bed frame, atop it a lumpy mattress, well worn blankets neatly folded. Vasily sat down on it—it was the only place to sit—and listened to the water running in the bathroom.
“Have you eaten?” It was a rhetorical question; the answer would be no. He’d seen the assortment of used paraphernalia on the kitchen counter. Vasily had taken care to make sure that the apartment had been stocked with the basics—bread and butter, cheese, eggs, some frozen vegetables in the refrigerator, a cheap set of dishes and flatware in the cabinets and drawers. He shook his head as he realized that Pasha had only gotten as far as selecting a spoon from the silverware drawer. Pasha might have been a junkie with a new lease on life, but he was still a junkie. Food was at the bottom of his priority list. “We’ll stop and grab something on the way to Von’s shop.”
When Pasha was dressed they headed out to Vasily’s car, a black 1982 Volvo 242. Pasha whistled his approval. “Not bad at all.”
“Business has been good.” Vasily smiled and slid behind the wheel of the car. It wasn’t brand new, and it wasn’t as elegant as some cars on the road these days, but he thought it was sharp looking. Pasha climbed in and he put the car in drive. “Things are going to get even better, now that you’re out.”
Pasha ran a hand through his hair, which was still wet from the shower. “I’m glad to hear such optimism from you, Vasilya. When are you going to fill me in on what’s been going on?”
“Soon.” He stopped the car in front of Birnbaum’s deli, a dingy storefront which had been in the neighborhood for ages, unchanged aside from the accumulation of dirt and graffiti on its exterior. “Run in and grab us some coffee and sandwiches. I’ll park the car and meet you back here. Von’s shop is upstairs.”
Pasha hopped out and slammed the door behind himself. Vasily parked the car around the corner, instantly deep in his own thoughts. There was a lot of work to be done. Now that he had Pasha, it was time to get moving. He had big plans for them. He got out of the car and walked back to the payphone on the corner, popped a quarter in and dialed a number from memory. “Matty—yeah. Tonight’s the night, spread the word.” He looked over his shoulder, watching for Pasha, and frowned. “Look, I don’t want to hear another word about it. Do I have to remind you who’s in charge here? I didn’t think so.” A flicker of movement caught the corner of his eye, the door of the deli starting to swing open. “I have to go. Remember—tonight.” With that he hung up the phone.
Pasha handed him a coffee and a bagel wrapped in foil. “Business?” he asked, indicating the phone call.
“Yeah, nothing important. I’ll fill you in later. Come on, we’re going to be late.”
There was a clatter of jingle bells as Vasily swung the door to Von’s tattoo shop open. Pasha followed him up the stairs, gnawing on a plastic coffee stirrer, trying to remember everything Vasily had ever told him about Von.